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   Homer remained the benchmark for all ‘eloquence’ throughout antiquity – his epic poems recalled distant past and his heroes sang of ancient great men and their deeds, and so ‘history’/tales of the past was respected.

 

  

 

 

‘Logographers’ told tales but weren’t accurate etc.  Herodotus, ‘The Father of History’ wrote about the origins of the Persian War (that he was born during) and recorded real and dodgy tales from the many lands he toured.  His easy-reading style was followed by Thucydides’ more rigorous and more linear history of ‘The Peloponnesian War’ (431-404 BC) that he fought in.  He explored causes too, and also included invented dialogues which were acceptable within history-writing of the time.  Thucydides (‘pithy, concise and hastening forward’ acc.to Quintilian) and Herodotus (‘pleasing, clear and wide-ranging’) remain well-respected throughout antiquity.  Xenophon was novel in his approach and less admired.

 

  Hellenistic historians after Alexander the Great’s empire spread Greek culture around the Eastern Med abounded thanks to the patronage of Hellenistic monarchs and their great libraries (Alexandria in Egypt in 200s BC and Pergamon’s in Asia Minor).

 

 

 

 

 Once literature reached Rome in late 200s BC, Roman historians were swift to fit Rome’s history into the Greek tradition of history-writing, and did so in Greek to retain authority for the genre and to spread the word of Rome’s antiquity and power.  Cato the Censor (234-149 BC) was the first historian to write in Latin.  Ennius (much respected by Romans) followed with his Latin narrative poem of the history of the Roman people from the Fall of Troy.  Sources for Roman history were the poorly preserved/recorded annals (tablets recording each year’s events, as inscribed by the year’s pontifex maximus), and previous historians.

 

   

 

Polybius wrote in Greek on the rapid Rise of the Roman Empire, to understand/explain how this happened.  He wrote much on how history must contain the truth and historians must test their sources, and must have experience in military and politics to write about them.

 

  

 

 

Sallust wrote with his own, new agenda on moral corruption, in his new monographs on smaller scale history.  Julius Caesar wrote his Gallic War to promote his own success.  Dionysius of Halicarnassus wrote in Greek to persuasively spread the word of Roman virtues and Rome’s Greek origins.

 

  

 

 

Cicero  mourned the continuing lack of a definitive Roman History written by a Roman in Latin; Livy soon wrote his 142 books so well that no one else could compete but his priorities were style and ease of reading and inspiration for moral virtue (versus the decline of it in his tale), not accuracy of fact.

 

 

  

 

Tacitus later wrote his history of the early imperial family (a great source for Robert Graves’ I, Claudius’) but rejected traditional grand scale history for the depressing intrigues of ‘palace’ life.

 

 

 

 

  All historians considered their work to last for ever, to be read and re-read.

 

The Muddy Archaeologist’s

Classical Civilisations Resources

The Romans

Classical Literature

Epic Poetry:  Homer & Hesiod     Drama      Philosophy    Historians

 

The Roman Republic    Oratory    Augustan Age     Silver Age   Novel Approach   Legacies

 

 

Greek and Roman Historians

 

Recommended Reading